“In the City of Arts and Innovation, where is the dedicated publication that gives artists a place to share and be heard”? That was the question Founder and CEO of Monticello Park Publishing, Ed Hanes Jr., asked at many doors within the Winston-Salem arts community. He was met with the same response: a shrug of the shoulders. “There have been other attempts, some really competent periodicals,” noted Hanes as he thumbed through his folder of samples, “but they didn’t seem to be consistently reaching the right audience, in the right space, at the right time. We’re going to change that.”
The answer: WS Arts, a magazine collaboration between Hanes and local media publisher David Johnson. Hanes believes that the monthly publication will capture arts focused readership by keeping the focus of the magazine “hyper local”. “This is not an original idea” notes Hanes. “There is movement in some arts focused magazines to take the median to a regional level rather than local. That’s not bad strategy if you aren’t based in a city with the rich artistic traditions of Winston-Salem. You don’t have to dig too deeply in our city to touch someone or something connected to the arts. This publication is going to tell those stories and provide exposure for established and aspiring artists and organizations. The magazine will feature treasures known and newly discovered. We will provide a platform for our readers to investigate and enjoy the arts at their leisure.”
Hanes’ experiences as a Board member with a number of local arts organizations led him to a strange conclusion: many people who love the arts still prefer print media over the internet. “Our audiences are trending younger but the rate is very measured,” noted Hanes. “Our Arts focused boards within the city have all done studies and/or worked with national consultants on this issue. The conclusions are consistent: While we must have a robust and genuine internet presence our primary outreach (and that still preferred by advertisers as well) needs to be on paper. The artists and those who love the arts still want to touch the actors….to see the texture of the next great work. This experience cannot be underestimated. So far Kindle and Apple simply haven’t achieved that “touch” experience the arts community still craves in their internet experience news.” Slyly smiling, Hanes added “but they are closing fast”.
The gap between “touch” and bridging the chasm between young and seasoned arts lovers moved Hanes to action. His first stop was at the home of publishers Dave and Sherri Johnson. With over 20 years of experience in the community magazine publishing business, they presented a reality check for Hanes. “I wanted to start with a 12,000 copy production. They helped me see the value to readers, artists, and advertisers in going with a business model that focused on an ultra-targeted approach instead. I wanted to know that we were bringing supreme value to those partners necessary to the success of any publication. It all made sense to me, especially after I saw what a palate of 12,000 magazines looked like.”
After a few more meetings a business relationship and the name of the magazine were born. “I wanted to keep it simple and straight to the point. Everyone in the Triad knows that Winston-Salem is the City of the Arts. I wanted to represent that in a clear way that left no doubt as to the focus and placement of the magazine,” says Hanes. “WSArts fit that profile of simplicity while not boxing us out of smaller underserviced communities in the Triad (Clemmons/Lewisville, Kernersville, Advance, Asheboro, and Trinity) that recognize the excellence of our arts commitment in Winston-Salem.”
“WS Arts is a place for artists to share their work and be heard by a diverse readership. We envision a platform welcoming to community experts crossing the arts pantheon. The opportunities in a vibrant arts community like Winston-Salem are endless.” Johnson was intrigued by the concept even though his work in the arts is limited. “Ed has established a name for himself in the Winston-Salem community. His work in the arts and education over the last few years has only added to his ability to reach out in an impactful way. I liked his ability to communicate and thought we had a great opportunity.”
Monticello Park Publishing, the parent company of WS Arts, is following a path toward success that Johnson has implemented in previous magazine projects: launch online and then move to the hard copy. “We’ll maintain both platforms but launching online first allows our potential advertisers and readers to see the quality of content right away”, said Johnson. “It also gives us a way to advertise to those who are still connected to the arts community in Winston but live elsewhere. We want to make sure we’re reaching those potential readers and supporters as well.”
“Hyper local doesn’t mean we won’t have any touch outside of Winston-Salem”, Hanes noted. “We recognize that our target audience has global lifestyle interests that span the spectrum, from travel to literature. We want to bring those opportunities that are within easy reach directly to our readers fingertips while keeping them hyper aware of the gifts within the arts community they have in their own backyard.”
WS Arts is a place for artists to share their work and be heard by a diverse readership.